Whether you’re a newbie freelance writer or a seasoned Shakespeare, chances are invoicing clients is an unavoidable part of your life. After you’ve delivered your service, the invoice is usually the final frontier and the only thing standing in the way of your well deserved financial reward.
This is why I wanted to take the time to explain the ins and outs of invoicing as it directly relates to freelance wordsmiths.
Technically speaking, an invoice is a payment request sent by a supplier (aka writer) that lists the goods or services (aka content) provided to a buyer (aka client). If you’re anything like some of my other writer friends, you might instinctively recoil at the idea of billing your clients. For some reason, creative types seem to prefer avoiding the not-so-artistic act of preparing and sending out invoices.
However, in this day and age, you really can’t afford to give in to these kinds of idiosyncrasies. Because at the end of the day, by default of being a freelancer, you and you alone are responsible for keeping the lights on. And clients today expect to be presented with an official record before issuing any payment.
In order to continue supplying and being reimbursed for your wealth of creative talent, you really ought to get onboard and start avoiding certain invoicing mistakes just like you would steer clear of the plague.
It may seem daunting now with writer’s block, deadlines and content strategy musings already clouding your mind. However, the advice outlined below is guaranteed to optimize your work life and be a stimulus behind getting you paid.
Carefully evaluate and avoid short changing yourself
Freelance writing competition is stiff given the high levels of flexibility and potential monetary gain. You first off have to evaluate yourself against the competition to determine just how valuable your services are.
Leave no stone unturned as you explore your growing portfolio of experiences and competencies. Even if you’re new to the game, avoid discounting your proficiency and short changing yourself as you develop a system to determine your writer rates.
Take it from me, struggling to figure out how much to charge for each and every new project is not worth the stress if you can avoid it. Instead try to have some semblance of a plan worked out beforehand.
It could be a flat rate where you charge per word, billing by the hour or really whatever works for your given context – just be sure to give it some thought in advance.
And because time is so valuable, when setting your rate, please try to include some cushion for less quantifiable services like research and going back and forth with the client. You want to make certain you’re competitive, but also fairly compensated for effectively communicating ideas by putting pen to paper (or keyboard).
It really is no easy feat. This more in depth guide to writer rate setting offers some great additional tips.
Include ALL relevant information
Now let’s get into the nuts and bolts of things.
The first thing that goes on an invoice is a business’ header and it should include the following:
- Your name
- Contact information (mailing address, email address, telephone number, etc.)
- Legal entity number – this will vary depending on the permit/ licensing requirements of your country
- Logo – if you don’t already have one, for the sake of your freelancer brand awareness, I urge you to develop one
The highlighted example above, created by a colleague of mine, ensures that pertinent information is included within the invoice header. At the end of the day, you want to make it’s as easy as humanly possible for your clients to reach you in the event they need to.
Secondly, you want to always correctly record your client’s information. Whether it’s a company or a person who has requested and benefited from your services, you should list the following contact details under your own:
- Client’s name or the name of the business (if possible you should try to note the specific individual who’s in charge of accounts payable)
- Mailing address
- Contact details (email address, telephone number, etc.)
If you client is a big company with a dedicated accounting department, it’s especially helpful for you to be as descriptive as possible so they know what project codes to charge when approving payment for your writing.
Next, every invoice you send out needs to display a good description of what services you have provided to your client along with their cost. So be sure you include:
- A list of services completed
- Costs associated with each of the services rendered
- Specific quantities (e.g. numbers of articles, word/ page counts, etc.)
- Total amount due
This breakdown of services should never be a surprise for clients since you would’ve discussed how to charge for your writing services beforehand. It’s usually charge per page, per article, based on word count or the number of hours worked at an agreed upon rate.
Regardless, it helps to spell out exactly what’s being paid for. Plus, if you were hired for a number of services, be sure to add each one to a new line in order to make it more easily digestible and organized.
The amount the client owes you will logically follow as you tally up line items outlining your services and costs. Always bold the total due figure for emphasis. This makes it easy for the client to see when they’re ready to make the payment.
Define agreed-upon payment terms and conditions
Payment due dates, project deadlines, down payments and any other terms or conditions both parties agreed to must be included on the invoice. Due dates vary based on circumstances, but most freelancers and invoicing systems use a 30-day, 45-day or 60-day timeline.
It’s also best to agree on and specify payment wishes like whether you prefer to be paid with cash, check, direct deposit or a service like PayPal. Additionally, you can opt to charge a late fee for invoices that are paid past their due date. Some freelance writers like to use this strategy to make sure they get paid on time.
Again, it’s best to be as clear and detailed as possible to ensure smooth sailing and forthcoming payment.
In the example above, the agreed upon terms and conditions and payment terms can be explicitly stated along with any additional notes you might want to leave for customers. Be sure to use it as needed.
One suggested way would be add a personal touch by saying thank you under the total due amount. Any other additional information or reminders could also go great in tailored additional notes section.
For more guidance, here’s a good article that goes into greater detail on best practices for payment terms and conditions as it relates to invoices.
Follow-up on late payments
You know how it goes. Life gets overwhelming and people forget things. When it comes to your compensation for a job well done though, you’ll want to be proactive in following up. You and your client would have agreed on a payment deadline. Assuming you held up your end of the bargain, you need to remind them of their obligation.
I know if can be a bit nerve racking to reach out to a client and ask about late payments. But it comes with the freelancing territory. Remain composed and start by crafting a firm but polite follow-up message. This article provides 5 email templates you can consider for inspiration.
Also, as touched on above, late payment penalties is something you can opt to indicate to your client before you even commence writing for them. If you decide to go this route, be sure to clearly indicate the terms of your interest charges directly on your invoice. FYI, 10- 20% of the total invoice amount tends to be a pretty common charge rate amongst the writer community.
Accept card payments online and include a payment link
Everything has moved online and card payments have quickly become the industry standard because, in today’s digital world, convenience is king. So if you’re not already offering your clients the option to pay you online, you really should make correcting this a priority.
It’s estimated that online payments can get you paid 17 days faster than the alternative and that’s only the average. Depending on your circumstances, it could be even quicker.
Essentially you’re in the business of selling your content creation services. And in business, you should always be focused on satisfying and meeting the customers’ needs. Customers crave convenience, so if they want to pay you with their card, why not give them the option to do so?
When using the right software, configuring the option to accept online payments and including a payment link on your invoice can be as easy as 1,2,3 and the competitive edge gained will be invaluable. Now without further ado, I’ll be diving into the benefits of online invoicing software.
Recognize that invoicing software is a godsend
I’d now like to implore that you free yourself from the burdens of repeatedly having to manually enter all the information outlined above everytime you want to get paid. The use of online automated invoicing software is guaranteed to give you both peace of mind and more time to focus on your writing tasks.
Invoicing software requires you to add your header, client information, list of services, terms and conditions and payment terms a total of one single time. After that, the information will be saved on the cloud and automatically generated for future invoices to the same client.
No more scrambling to find email address or shuffling through years worth of paperwork. Just log into your online account and it’ll all be there. You’re able to quickly see what invoices have been sent and which ones are outstanding, as well as add scans of your receipts.
These records always come in handy when tax season rolls around. You’ll be able to create various financial reports that help make life easier.
Another advantage offered by some software is a payment reminder function that takes the duress out of having to draft something yourself. With the click of a button you can instruct the software to send off a quick, polite reminder to your client.
The software also lays everything out in a professional manner and makes the invoicing process a much more all-around painless one. Not to mention, some software options allow you to add some personality to your invoices by offering a varied range of templates to choose from as well as letting you choose your prefered color scheme to go with your logo.
saying thank you to your writing clients is an excellent way to nurture the relationship. But if you’re working with loads of different people, it can be tough to remember and send out individual thank yous. The ability to add a customized message right on the invoice or send an automated thank you note after receiving payment really can be the cherry on top.
InvoiceBerry offers you this option along with all of the other features outlined above. Feel free to shop around a bit, but at the end of the day I think you’ll find no other online invoicing software has the best interests of freelance writers at heart quite like we do.